Celebrate with a Walking School Bus
A walking school bus event gives students, parents and other community members an opportunity to appreciate the value of the school as center of community by walking to school together. In a time when many schools are being built or renovated, this event serves as a way to bring visibility to the importance of having schools and surrounding neighborhoods that are inviting and safe for children to walk and bicycle.
Popular & Do-able
The walking school bus format has been successfully used at many schools celebrating International Walk to School Day. Held every October in the USA since 1997, schools around the country participate in this event to promote safety, physical activity, reduced traffic, safe routes to school and other issues. In 2004, over 3,500 US schools shared the walk to school with 38 other countries on International Walk to School Day. The SchoolsNEXT Design Competition focus on the school facility and campus provide another reason to celebrate with a walk to school using a popular activity – the walking school bus.
In addition, Walk to School event coordinators may be willing to assist you in organizing the walking school bus, particularly if you offer to partner with them for the October International Walk to School event.
How to find coordinators in your community:
Go to www.walkbiketoschool.org
, select your state to see contact information and locations of schools and coordinators that have participated.
Organize a Walking School Bus Event in 3 Simple Steps
Contact the 3 P's
Involve the school principal, police, and parents in the event. Approach these individuals as potential partners; don't merely ask for permission, propose partnerships. This means that they can contribute their perspective and feel ownership of the event. Also, provide printed information about School Building Week that they can review and share with others.
Principal or School Administration Official
Talk to the principal and explain the event's purpose. Ask how the school can be involved and find out about any special logistical or safety concerns.
Ask parents to join the celebration. It is a way for them to be involved in the SchoolsNEXT Design Competition, enjoy a walk and socialize with other families. To have sufficient supervision on the walk, either require parents to walk with their children or secure volunteers before the event.
Notify the local law enforcement division about the Walking School Bus event and ask them to help. Ask for input on the proposed meeting place, walking route, and subsequent celebration. Ask about traffic concerns they may have and how they can help address them. Find out how this event might fit into their plans for community policing, focused enforcement or pedestrian and bicycle safety. This will help you gain their support. Remember to invite them to the celebration.
Organize the Walking School Bus
Review the Walking School Bus Guidelines for Organizers
Review the Walking School Bus Guidelines for Talking to Children about Pedestrian Safety
Designate a Route to School
With information you've gathered from the principal and law enforcement, select a route to school. One-half mile is a reasonable distance. Consider the following issues:
Choose a route with low traffic volume and speed.
Will you need to cross any streets? If so, are there crosswalks?
Will you need police officers to direct traffic?
Where will walkers meet? Is there sufficient parking if families must drive?
Once you have designated a route, draw a map and distribute it to parents and event volunteers.
- Pick a Meeting Place
Invite elected officials, parents and children to meet in a designated place such as a neighborhood, park or parking lot at the start of the route. You can even have buses drop off students who live further away at the designated walk location.
- Take Steps to Ensure Safety
Sign up parents and teachers to get on the Walking School Bus and facilitate the event. Make sure that you have enough adult supervision. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend one adult for every six elementary-age children. If children are age 10 or older, fewer adults may be needed. If children are ages 4 to 6, one adult per three children is recommended. Review safety rules before you start the Walking School Bus.
- Plan a Celebration at the School
Hold a welcoming event at school to cap off the event. This is an opportunity for public officials to say a few words, announce awards or read a proclamation. It can be a formal press conference or an informal celebration. Consider serving a healthy breakfast.
Promote the Walking School Bus
Promote to Media
Send a press release to media announcing the time and location of the event, as well as what groups are involved and if any community leaders will participate. Call the media the day before the event. Make the event camera-ready and fun for participants by using balloons, homemade signs and event banners.
- Promote to Parents
Send information home inviting parents to participate.
- Promote at the School
Announce the event for a few days leading up to the event so students will be ready and excited. Involve the children in making banners and signs. Visit Potential School of the Future Design Competition Activities for activities to conduct at school to mark the occasion.
Nancy Pullen, Program Manager
University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center
Created by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center